German Shepherd Dog (Deutscher Schäferhund)
The German Shepherd was developed in Germany in the XIX century as a herding dog. Eventually this courageous, devoted and remarkably intelligent breed proved its suitability for a wide range of tasks so nowadays it’s deservedly considered as a versatile dog. Despite its immense popularity it can become a lovable pet only in the hands of an experienced and confident owner.
For the appearance of the German Shepherd we have to thank Captain Max von Stephanitz who was inspired by the idea of breeding a truly versatile working dog. He and several other enthusiastic breeders utilised short-haired, wire-haired and long-haired herding and farm canine varieties from Wurtemberg, Thurginia and Bavaria in their selective experiments. The resulted dog was marked by docility, loyalty, quick-wittedness and outstanding trainability. Originally it was reputed as an exceptional sheep herder that was able to gather and drive the flock of sheep only by quite, purposeful and stealthy movements.
The first German Shepherds were shown at a dog exhibition in Hanover, Germany, in 1882. In the early XX century the breed was brought to the United States and received recognition of the American Kennel Club (AKC) as early as in 1912. Due to its great intelligence and resourcefulness the specimens of this breed actively participated in both World Wars. They disregarded the danger of death to replenish the supplies of food and ammunition of German soldiers in trenches.
Despite its service for Nazis during the XX century the popularity of the German Shepherds steadily grew throughout the world. Over time it was appreciated in various roles including a police dog, search-and-rescue dog and therapy dog. It also proved to be a surprisingly good assistant for the disabled, thanks to its alertness and independent thinking. Of course it also became for lots of families a beloved pet as well as an intrepid protector.
Initial version of the German Shepherd stands out for stockier constitution and much more stable disposition than modern leaner, with thinner bones and perhaps more temperamentally unpredictable breed member. There are lots of heated arguments whether these modifications in its conformation benefit the breed or make it to lose its identity. Currently several breeders united their efforts to reconstruct its original physique and temperament. They named the resulting dog the Shiloh Shepherd in honour of the Shiloh Kennels in New York where it was initially created.
The overwhelming popularity of the German Shepherd created a great demand for its puppies, which is supplied by an army of individual breeders with various experience and goals. That’s why this breed is extremely variable in personality not only from line to line but also from specimen to specimen. It takes lots of careful research of pedigrees and temperaments of parents to find a pup that will exhibit exactly the same character, which is described in the breed’s standard. In an ideal world this dog would be loyal, intrepid and confident, but not vicious, eager, extremely docile and smart. The well-bred specimen will be gentle and patient with family children although they should be shown how to treat the dog with due respect.
The German Shepherd always behaves itself highly forbearingly with strange people and the rate of its hostility will mostly depends on innate tendencies. Of course proper socialisation and obedience training is vital for any dog but there is still no guarantee that your German Shepherd will be polite with each and every unfamiliar person. It’s known to be extremely territorial and therefore becomes a very responsible watcher. This dog will never allow an intruder to enter its homestead unchallenged so it can be turned into a ferocious guardian.
The German Shepherd earned itself a bad name as far as it concerns other dogs. The combination of strong territorial instinct and dominative nature accounts for its outright aggression towards strange dogs, especially of the same sex. Nonetheless it will perceive other canine as the part of its pack if they have been brought up together since a young age. This dog has never been used for hunting purposes so it’s relatively accepting of with other species of animals. Make sure to properly introduce your pup to their existence as early as possible and it will never pester them in its maturity.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· aortic stenosis;
· eye problems;
· Cushing’s disease;
· degenerative myelopathy;
· canine hip dysplasia;
· exocrine pancreatic insufficiency;
· footpad disorders;
· glycogen storage disease;
· immune-mediated thrombocytopenia;
· mitral dysplasia;
· myasthenia gravis;
· nasal cavity tumours;
· persistent right aortic arch;
· pituitary dwarfism;
· tricuspid dysplasia.
The grooming of the German Shepherd takes average amount of time and efforts. This dog has a dense double coat with a long and coarse upper layer so it should be brushed and combed at least twice a week to prevent knots and tangles from developing. It’s a constant average shedder, which will blow out its undercoat once a year (females usually shed heavily twice a year). Be prepared to tolerate with a great deal of dog hair on your carpets and furniture.
This breed is well-known for its cleanliness and requires only rare bathing. Other than that it should get quite a standard care, which consists of monthly nail trimming and regular teeth brushing.
The German Shepherd is an exceptionally trainable breed that can master very complicated tricks with little amount of repetitions. However supreme intelligence of this dog becomes apparent only in the hands of experienced and authoritative handler. It’s very quick and precise in its judgment of situation so it will instantly take charge if the trainer lacks decisiveness and leadership qualities.
Remember that the breed member responds adequately only to positive reinforcement with an emphasis on its favourite treats. Physical punishments or yelling will only induce aggressiveness and wilful streak in the German Shepherd. This super smart and obedient dog excels in numerous canine sports including obedience and agility trials.
The German Shepherd longs for intensive physical exercise and will never be fully satisfied with a short daily walk. Make sure to offer your pet a regular opportunity to play and roam in a safely enclosed area. Moreover quick mind of this dog requires lots of mental stimulation preferably in the form of some advanced obedience training.
The German Shepherd likes to frisk with a Frisbee or a ball. It also can make an indefatigable companion for a jogger or bicyclist. An under exercised dog is highly prone to such serious behavioural problems as hyperactivity, unpredictable aggressiveness and nervousness.